Guest Column: Three Bands You May Not Know But Should By Vex’s Owen McCloskey

Guest Column

We’ve reached out to our metal brethren across the land, asking that they contribute prose to our recent series of guest columns. We ran a recent series on Five Albums That Will Change You, and the response was overwhelming.

The new topic is Three Bands You May Not Know About But Should, and we asked that each guest writer jot down a brief description of what makes each band worthy of our attention. Today, we continue this ongoing series with an entry from Owen McCloskey, drummer for Vex.

Magma is a little-known experimental French prog rock band founded by drummer and lyricist Christian Vander in the late 60s. Vander invented a constructed, phonetic language called Kobaïan in which all the band’s lyrics were sung. The language’s fictional home planet Kobaïa served as narrative for their ten concept albums released on the obscure French imprint Seventh Records. Even if the esoteric lyrics aren’t your thing, give the music a chance. This is some of the darkest and most well put-together prog rock to come out of what was indisputably the golden period of the genre–the 60s and 70s. Like Arthur Brown, Magma’s dark themes and musical complexity were ahead of their time, weaving odd meters and dissonant vocal harmonies decades before other, more well known bands would get way more credit for doing the same things. Vander in particular plays with such musicality and ferocity that it is perhaps no surprise that his playing greatly influences that of Absu’s Proscriptor McGovern. YouTube the live performance of their classic De Futura and I dare you not to become obsessed with this band.

Though he was instrumental in inventing be bop, Grachan Moncur III never became a household name like his compatriots who helped create the genre — Coltrane, Parker, Monk. If you’re not into jazz just bear with me, because this isn’t the kind of jazz that you’re likely to hear in the lobby of a Holiday Inn. Cuts such as ‘Air Raid’ and ‘Evolution’ from his defining record Evolution are as evil sounding and intense as any metal record I have ever heard. The crushing, ominous mood created by Moncur and his sidemen (Lee Morgan, Tony Williams, Jackie McLean, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter) reminds me of the moods created by early Morbid Angel. For a total head trip, check out ‘Excursion’ from the more recent album Exploration — three minutes of the free-est free jazz you’ve ever heard, all chaos and noise that sounds like a musical interpretation of a DMT trip.

If you don’t live in the southern U.S., you’re probably not familiar (yet) with Feral Rex. We’ve become good friends with these guys from playing many gigs with them in and around Austin. but the first time I heard their music it reminded me of everything that excited me about extreme metal so long ago. Well-written, tightly constructed, catchy and moody death metal that recalls the golden age of United States death metal, the 90s and early 2000s. They’re also workhorses; like us, they’re all involved in tons of different projects at once, all of which that I have heard have been great. Pick up their demo Awaken the Elderbeast or check out some live clips on YouTube. Better yet — come down to Austin and see them!

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